Last Updated on 08/11/2022
Is your North Face jacket ruined in the wash?
If the insulation or feathers inside has clumped together it can leave your North Face jacket looking flat and empty. Can it be fixed? Yes. Unless you nuked your down jacket at a high temperature or the feathers have started to come out then you should be able to fix most North Face jackets ruined by washing them.
In this guide on how to fix a North Face jacket ruined in the wash, we share three ways to fix down/feathers that have become clumped together, as well as how to re-waterproof a rain jacket. Ruining a North Face Jacket in the wash is actually quite hard and there is normally a way to repair any damage done. Let’s figure out just how bad your situation is…
Did You Ruin Your North Face Jacket By Washing It?
Before you panic, let’s figure out just how bad things are. There are three ways you can damage a North Face down jacket in the wash; heat, chemicals, and rips. Go through these questions and answers to figure out if you have done any permanent damage or use one of our solutions further down.
What is Your Jacket Made From?
Most of the time when people tell me they ruined a North Face jacket in the wash, it is because the down insulation has clumped together in the baffles. To find out if this is your problem, check the label on the inside of the jacket. On North Face jackets it is usually on the left side lower down or directly beneath the coat hook label inside.
You are looking for the breakdown of the materials which probably starts with what the shell and lining are made from. Then it will tell you about the insulation. If it says the insulation is polyester or nylon then you have nothing to worry about. If it says goose down and feathers then this could be a problem.
Did You Wash or Dry Your North Face Jacket Above 40º C?
If you washed or dried your TNF jacket above 40º C then there is a chance you have damaged any down feather insulation inside. You didn’t ruin it though.
As most of you are already aware, North Face jackets should be washed at 40º C or lower. If the insulation inside is made from down and feathers, high wash and dry temperatures can permanently damage the tiny fibers. If you did wash your jacket above 40º C, the jacket will still keep you warm but it will not loft up as much and performance will be reduced.
What Kind of Washing Detergent Did You Use?
Some washing detergents can be extremely harsh on the down feather insulation inside many North Face winter jackets. If you washed your jacket with biological washing powder or fabric conditioner, you may have reduced the performance of the natural insulation. But you didn’t ruin it and there is something you can do to partially reverse what you have done.
Certain washing detergents with active chemicals in the, work so well that they actually strip the down and feathers of their natural oils as well as any DWR treatments on the jacket. This cannot be reversed but you can remove all the chemicals still clung to the fibers within the insulation.
Have You Lost Down, Feathers, or Insulation Through a Hole?
Did you open your washing machine or dryer to find a cluster of feathers in the tumbler? This is not a good sign and signals you may have had a rip or tear in the wash. While leaving the pockets and zip open to wash your jacket is recommended by many people, the zips can occasionally snag on material as it is being spun dry.
The only way to resolve this is to reinsert the down feathers or use some from an old pillow and then patch up the hole. There are people who can do this for you or you can follow the guides on Youtube.
3 Ways to Fix a North Face Jacket Ruined in Wash
If it looks like your North Face jacket is ruined after washing it in the washing machine then don’t worry, we have three solutions for you to try:
1. Unclumping By Hand
Believe it or not, the fastest way to fix a Nort Face jacket with clumps of down is to do it by hand. Go around every cluster of down feathers and gently break them up and pinch them apart with your fingers and thumbs.
Once the down and feathers have been gently teased apart you can gradually start to distribute them across the baffles. Here is the 10-step process I used on my North Face Nuptse down jacket:
- Put 2 or 3 tennis balls, dryer balls, or crocs in your dryer with your jacket to break apart the clumps as much as possible.
- Make sure your TNF jacket is completely dry using a tumble dryer on the lowest setting.
- Start with the largest clumps first which are often around the zip and seams.
- First, pinch the clump of insulation from the outside with one hand.
- Then pinch the same clump of insulation from the inside of the jacket with your other hand.
- Patiently tease apart the down into smaller and smaller clusters.
- Be gentle so that you don’t damage the shell and liner by pinching and pushing too hard.
- Once the insulation is separated, encourage small amounts at a time towards the empty sections using your finger and thumb.
- Repeat this process until the baffle feels evenly filled and there are no hard clumps left inside.
- Then work your way down the other baffles repeating steps 4 to 9.
Once complete give your jacket a shake in every direction for maximum loft. Your jacket should look better than it did before because now it is clean. The whole process is faster than you think and takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. To make sure all the down is spread out evenly, hold it up to the light which should reveal where the insulation is thin and where the clusters are.
2. Re-Wash and Dry
If you think you made a mistake by not using a dryer or by using the wrong fabric cleaner then sometimes it is best to just start over. This involves following the steps for washing and drying a North Face jacket (further down the page) to reduce the amount of clumping. Even after you do this you may have to manually redistribute the insulation by hand.
Something you may not know about washing North Face jackets with down filling is that if you use regular non-bio detergent then you should wash it a second time once complete to rinse out any chemicals. The better option is to use a down-specific wash like the ones we recommend further down. Avoid biological detergents which can strip the down of its essential components.
3. Take it to a Professional
The other thing you can do if you don’t mind spending a bit of money and waiting a few days to a few weeks for it to be returned is to leave it to a professional. If your jacket has a limited lifetime warranty then you can contact North Face here to investigate whether you are entitled to a free repair. If you are you can expect to have your jacket returned in 6-8 weeks or simply have a replacement part shipped out in around 3-4 weeks.
You can also try asking your local dry cleaners, or looking for a specialist gear fixer. If your jacket is expensive then you might feel most comfortable taking this option but be warned, not everyone knows what they are doing.
Check out our down jacket unclumping guide for a list of people who specialize in fixing outdoor gear like North Face jackets ruined in washing machines.
How to Wash North Face Jacket Without Ruining It?
The easy way to wash a North Face jacket without ruining it is to wash at a low temperature of 30º C using task-specific detergent. You can get away with using regular non-biological washing powder but you need to run through the wash cycle once or twice more to rinse out the chemicals.
If your North Face jacket is made with down insulation then there really is no way of preventing the feathers from clumping together. The trick is to reverse the feather clumping by drying it with some tennis balls or alike. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to avoid damaging your North Face puffer jacket when washing:
- Make sure all the pockets are empty and that any elasticated tension cords are released.
- Zip up the front zip fully but leave the pockets partially open if they are dirty inside.
- Use a specific “Down wash” like the ones listed below.
- Use the coolest setting on the washing machine or set the temperature to 30º C (40º C maximum).
- Avoid long spin cycles when wet.
Two detergents that we highly recommend for North Face jackets made from down are Nikwax Down Wash Direct or the Graingers Down Wash Cleaners seen below. These help to protect the natural qualities of feathers and down without harsh chemicals and ensure a long life for your expensive jacket.
How to Dry a North Face Jacket After Washing?
Once you have washed your North Face jacket, let it drip dry for 30 minutes or so as opposed to aggressive spin cycles. This gets rid of some of the weight and makes these next steps easier with less chance of damaging the jacket or the dryer. One of the easiest ways to fix a North Face jacket ruined in a wash is to dry it in the following way:
- Take your jacket out of the wash and let it drip dry for 30 minutes.
- *Lay it flat on top of a large towel then roll the towel up with the jacket inside to make a tight roll using lots of pressure.
- Gently wring the towel along with the coat to transfer any moisture from the jacket to the towel.
- Make sure all the zips are closed and place it in a dryer with some clean tennis balls, dryer balls, or a croc shoe.
- Use the lowest possible setting for delicates and let it run for an hour before turning it inside out and repeating.
- A North Face jacket like the Nuptse may take anywhere from 3 – 8 hours to fully dry and reloft in a dryer on low settings.
- You may still have to readjust some of the insulation throughout the baffles but hopefully not too much
* If your down jacket has lost some of its water resistance the time to reapply DWR treatment is while it is still wet. You should do this straight after step one and then continue to step two.
Waterproof North Face Jacket Ruined in Wash
For anyone who washed a North Face waterproof raincoat instead of an insulated jacket, you are faced with a different problem.
Did you ruin the waterproofing of your North Face jacket by washing it? Go through these four questions and answers to get your answer:
- Did you wash your jacket above 40 degrees celsius? If yes then there is a chance you may have damaged your down jacket.
- How did you dry your jacket? If you used a dryer or left it hung over a radiator too long then you may have done visible damage.
- Did you use biological washing detergent? If yes then you didn’t ruin it but you may have removed the DWR.
- Did you use a fabric conditioner? If yes then you didn’t ruin it but you may have reduced its performance.
The best thing you can do if you think you have ruined a waterproof North Face jacket in the wash is to rewash it on a cold setting using some Nikwax Tech Wash and then give it a spray with some Nikwax TX Direct Spray-On before it dries to finish it off.
If you washed your jacket so hot that the seam seal tape on the inside has come loose then you can use some GEAR AID Seam Grip SIL Silicone Sealant to secure it back down. Good as new.
Was your North Face jacket ruined in wash? Did this guide help or is there something missing? Let us know.